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Anaerobic NOT Aerobic exercise for the non-athlete

Mark Baker is not an elite athlete. Though now in his mid-fifties, he still has the physique of a twenty-something sportsman at his physical peak.

But if you thought that to stay in excellent shape into middle and old age was a task for only the most dedicated of gym goers, then you’re wrong.

In a booklet written to promote his new book to be released in 2018, Anaerobics, Baker states “A friend, an ex-athlete now a personal trainer, spends a zillion hours per week exercising, yet I get 95% of the benefit (and less downside) from two/three hours a week, leaving the rest of the time free for writing, fishing, knocking about the city and generally avoiding anything which resembles paid employment”.

This comes from the idea of doing the “Minimum Effective dose” for what you need. Baker also points out that athletes can benefit from doing less training as it gives the body the chance to reach a phase of supercompensation, meaning that your level of fitness can reach a new level if you let the body rest and recover.

“Most athletes’ careers are ended by acute or chronic injuries; the accumulation of damage from chronic day in day out training. For long-term health it is wrong to mimic the workload of a competitive athlete” writes Baker.

Nor is chronicity particularly good in everyday modern life in Baker’s opinion.

“Modern life is characterised by the transfer of the acute to the chronic. The acute things which make us stronger (or kill us) have given way to chronic exercise, chronic food intake, chronic conditions, chronic medications, and the drip, drip, of chronic stress and depression. The chronic leads to physical and psychological fragility.”

That is why the full title of the booklet is Anaerobics: Deconstruction and Reconstruction. It is not about training chronically, but about robustness, intense activity for short periods as opposed to the constant stress on our muscles caused by aerobic training.

This leads Baker to determine that these bursts of high intensity should not be accompanied by a warm up of lower intensity. We need to be able to adapt quickly to changing situations because “young humans and animals in the wild can go from rest to full pelt in the blink of an eye.”

In order to unlock this youthfulness and vitality in an aging body, we must be prepared to be like “the cheetah from start to 60 mph in five seconds; [or] the cat on your sofa, from semi-asleep to jumping up the curtains in an instant when a bird flies past the window”.

We therefore need to learn to be able to move quickly at a moment’s notice, often with no fuel in the tank.

Most heavy aerobic training regimes are fueled by a high carbohydrate diet. In addition to his opposition to aerobic exercise or endurance training, Baker advises against a high carbohydrate diet and a vegan diet, the latter being overwhelmingly comprised of the former. In addition to no strength training, these are “things you can get away with as a youngster but not in middle-age.”

Another proposal that Baker makes to our diet, or lack thereof is “Intermittent Feasting” or IFe – a new way of defining what has becoming popularised in recent years as Intermittent fasting or IF. This is because our hunter gatherer ancestors would often go long periods without eating until they would get an opportunity to feast. Intermittent feasting trains the body to not be dependent on the constant necessity to eat three meals a day.

Various scientific studies have been done extolling the virtues of intermittent fasting. I cannot, however, be bothered to cite any of them. Today’s science can be debunked tomorrow and scientific studies can often contradict themselves. Now in the age of the internet, data is endless but how do we know what is the correct path to follow? The answer is surely in trial and error, finding what works and what does not.

That is why Baker argues that: “in the absence of scientific evidence and data whom should we choose to believe? The scientist / researcher, or someone with forty years practical experience”.

The full extent of Baker’s knowledge and practical experience will be available in more detail next year in his book Anaerobics.

For now though, the booklet Anaerobics: Deconstruction and Reconstruction can be read here:

Featured Photo and other photos courtesy of Olusegun Adekanye @b7k_photography [Instagram]. Anaerobics: Deconstruction and Reconstruction image courtesy of Mark Baker @guruanaerobic [Twitter].


  • Tomas Meehan

    Tomas has a passion for track and field but takes an interest in doing interviews and writing articles on a wide range of sports including bobsleigh, Muay Thai boxing, boxing, horse racing, rugby, football and Ultimate Frisbee. As well as writing, he has a YouTube channel featuring interviews from high-profile track and field athletes. Prior to embarking on his Sports Journalism degree at St. Mary's University, Twickenham, he obtained an MA in Spanish from the University of Edinburgh.